A visit to Wairarapa by Minister Hon. Mark Patterson to discuss the day-to-day challenges experienced by rural communities was warmly welcomed by the three Wairarapa Mayors.

As Minister for Rural Communities, Minister Patterson was eager to discuss Wairarapa’s recovery efforts in response to Cyclone Gabrielle and other North Island Weather Events (NIWE). The purpose of the visit was for Minister Patterson to gauge first-hand how Wairarapa has been affected by NIWE, and other matters the region is facing in relation to agriculture and regional development. 

In attendance were Iwi, the three Wairarapa Mayors, the Wairarapa Recovery Office, Wairarapa MP Mike Butterick, Federated Farmers, FENZ, Rural Support Trust and advocates of affected residents. 

Some of the concerns discussed were the financial pressures on our farming communities, mental health impacts, accessibility to water, unrepaired fencing, silt build-up reducing water storage, unusable rural tracks, insurance coverage falling short of covering damages, and the long-term impacts on roading. 

Residents also expressed general concerns around ongoing fire risks for farming properties, flood protection, an increase in land used for forestry, and lack of rural cellphone coverage. 

Minister Hon. Mark Patterson had an open discussion with Wairarapa residents and spoke about the opportunities available to rural communities through the Regional Infrastructure Fund for water storage, irrigation, and flood protection.  

“Local knowledge is extremely important, and what I’m hearing is that the enormity of what’s still left to do for farmers regarding the clean-up from Cyclone Gabrielle, and the financial shortfalls, are really starting to sink in,” Minister Patterson said. 

“I’m a sheep and beef farmer myself, so I understand the frustrations farmers are feeling.” 

Minister Patterson welcomed ongoing, frank discussions on challenges for the rural sector, saying “our door is always open.” 

Mayor Hon. Ron Mark said today’s visit was a great opportunity to voice our region’s concerns to ensure we’re not left behind. 

“It was fantastic for Wairarapa to have a Minister from Central Government come to our region and speak directly with our communities to understand their needs. There’s a lot of support we’re going to need now and in the future, to ensure the resilience of both our infrastructure and our people,” Mayor Mark said. 

“The costs around repairing our infrastructure, particularly for our roading, are untenable for small populations such as ours, and are likely to be felt for decades to come.” 

Wairarapa Recovery Programme Manager Simon Taylor said that while Wairarapa was not hit as hard by NIWE as other parts of the country, our region suffered some serious impacts in remote areas, with some residents still displaced, and whole communities remaining semi-isolated. 

“We’re working together on behalf of the Wairarapa region to expand our recovery capability and ongoing resilience, while continuing to support those adversely impacted by last year’s events,” said Mr Taylor.  

“Part of the recovery process is understanding and helping to mitigate some of the wider impacts on our communities and local economy. Today’s visit was a great opportunity for the Minister to talk directly to those affected along with those supporting them.”